Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A New Strategic Direction for Behavioral and Social Sciences Research at NIH

NIH Press Release
November 23, 2016

The Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) at the National Institutes of Health has released a new strategic plan for 2017 through 2021. The plan focuses on scientific priorities, which reflect key research challenges that OBSSR is uniquely positioned to address. Developed with considerable input from internal and external NIH stakeholders, the plan ensures OBSSR continues to fulfill its mission.
While it is widely accepted that behavioral and social factors account for approximately half of the premature deaths in the United States, understanding how these behavioral and social factors interact with biology and can be modified to improve health requires a robust and rigorous behavioral and social sciences research agenda. Recent scientific and technological advances in the biomedical, behavioral, and social sciences are generating massive amounts of information from the molecular and genetic levels to clinical and community outcomes. NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., and OBSSR Director William T. Riley, Ph.D., wrote an editorial published today in Science Translational Medicine that highlights some of the scientific and technological advances that are transforming the behavioral and social sciences.
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Monday, November 21, 2016

Working Papers of the Week: November 18, 2016

By Jessica McCann

Welcome to Working Papers of the Week! Our goal is to highlight the valuable and interesting research Kennedy School faculty members are doing here and abroad by featuring new working papers recently uploaded to the site.

Last week, the following working papers were posted:

Securing Property Rights
Glaeser, Edward L., Giacomo A.M. Ponzetto, and Andrei Shleifer

A central challenge in securing property rights is the subversion of justice through legal skill, bribery, or physical force by the strong—the state or its powerful citizens—against the weak. We present evidence that the less educated and poorer citizens in many countries feel their property rights are least secure. We then present a model of a farmer and a mine which can pollute his farm in a jurisdiction where the mine can subvert law enforcement. We show that, in this model, injunctions or other forms of property rules work better than compensation for damage or liability rules. The equivalences of the Coase Theorem break down in realistic ways. The case for injunctions is even stronger when parties can invest in power. Our approach sheds light on several controversies in law and economics, but also applies to practical problems in developing countries, such as low demand for formality, law enforcement under uncertain property rights, and unresolved conflicts between environmental damage and development.

To read the full working paper, click here.

Searching for the Devil in the Details: Learning about Development Program Design
Nadel, Sara, and Lant Pritchett

Motivated by our experience in designing a particular social program, skill set signaling for new entrants to the labor market in Peru, we articulate the need for, and explore the empirical consequences of, alternative learning approaches to the design of development projects. Using a simulation, we demonstrate that even with only modest dimensioned design space and even modest “ruggedness” of the outcome with respect to design a naive iterative approach of “crawling the design space” dominates an RCT learning strategy. We suggest that the empirical results of RCTs to date are consistent with social programs having high dimensional design space and outcomes sensitive to design and hence project/program/policy design must depend on more robust learning strategies than the attempt to directly apply results from “systematic reviews” or move prematurely to an RCT.

To read the full working paper, click here.

Don’t miss out on our faculty members' other recent working papers! Browse our latest faculty working papers by number or follow RAO on Twitter at @HKS_Research to stay in the loop.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Universities Report Four Years of Declining Federal Funding

NSF Press Release
November 17, 2016

Federal funding for research at higher education institutions declined for a fourth straight year, according to a new report from the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES).
During a peak in Fiscal Year (FY) 2011, federal funding accounted for 62.5 percent of total higher education research and development (R&D) expenditures. That figure dropped to 55.2 percent in FY 2015, the most recent year for which data are available. Overall, universities reported $68.8 billion in R&D expenditures for FY 2015; federal funding accounted for $37.9 billion of that.
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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Fearful of a Trump Administration, Many in Research Call for a ‘Tutorial’ for the President-Elect

Sharon Begley
November 9, 2016

Biomedical and public health researchers struggled Wednesday to fathom what the incoming Trump administration might mean for their fields, as they tried to separate their personal views about the election (many supported Hillary Clinton) from what’s known or expected about the president-elect’s plans.
“It’s so hard to know” what the Trump White House will do, said Dr. Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute and professor of genomics at the Scripps Research Institute. One hopeful sign: Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the House of Representatives and a close Trump ally, last year called for a doubling of the National Institutes of Health budget and is a strong supporter of science research (he used to have a replica of a T. rex skull in his office).
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Friday, November 4, 2016

Older Scientists Are Touted as Offering Untapped Value

The Chronicle of Higher Education
Paul Basken
November 4, 2016

Federal funding agencies have been eager to support younger researchers, reflecting a widespread belief that nurturing the next generation is critical to ensuring the long-term success of the nation’s scientific enterprise.
A new analysis out of Northeastern University, however, is challenging the orthodoxy. Looking across a variety of fields, the study found that while a researcher’s productivity generally declines with age, creativity and impact do not.
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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Open Data Meets a Defining Test

The Chronicle of Higher Education
Paul Basken
November 1, 2016

In a plain, brick, two-story office building near the University of Virginia, several dozen computer programmers are racing to define the future of science.
Members of the nonprofit Center for Open Science, they see a critical moment. Web-based services that researchers use to create, store, analyze, and share data are being rapidly built, bought, and sold by a handful of major publishing companies and their offspring.
If uninterrupted, the thinking goes, those cyber-consolidators could reinforce an expectation that scientific data is a private asset to be amassed and hoarded. But if redirected, they could enable a new world in which data is routinely and widely shared, speeding scientific discoveries and boosting their reliability.
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